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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Muslim Student Association holds pro-Palestine protest

Stony Brook students holding Palestine’s flag during the Palestine march on Oct. 18. The march was held by the Muslim Student Association outside of the Student Union on campus. SKY CRABTREE/THE STATESMAN

“Free, free, Palestine,” was chanted by hundreds of students outside of the Stony Brook University Union on Oct. 18 — nearly two weeks after war began between Israel and Hamas.

“I am just sick and tired of the world giving a blank eye to the Palestinian suffering,” Adan Piracha, a sophomore biochemistry major, said.

In a protest consisting of a diverse crowd, Piracha, alongside many other students, voiced their support for Palestine.

“I feel there was a great turnout, people from different cultures and religions all came and showed up,” Piracha said. “We went all throughout campus and voiced our concerns.”

The protest was held by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) outside of the Union at 1 p.m. Hundreds of students rallied and marched across the campus. The protest lasted around 45 minutes, with students bringing signs and posters calling for Palestine to be freed.

The protest arose from an escalation of ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Israel. Hamas is a Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and is identified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

On Oct. 7, after decades of continuous fighting and Israeli occupation, Hamas launched a surprise attack retaliating against Israeli rule, killing hundreds of Israelis and capturing at least 199 hostages from Southern Israel. As of Oct. 18, 1,400 Israelis have been killed since Hamas launched their offense in early October.

Israel responded to the unexpected attack by hammering the densely populated Gaza Strip of 2.3 million people with airstrikes. Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, announced that “no electricity, no food, no water, [and] no fuel” will be allowed into Gaza as a consequence of the attack. The Israeli offense against Gaza has seen 3,478 Palestinians killed as of Oct. 18.

With so much bloodshed, the MSA decided to voice their concerns on Tuesday and stand up for Palestine. The MSA announced the protest this Tuesday via an Instagram post, which reached almost 1,000 people.

Mahjabin Raiqa, president of MSA and a junior biology major, was surprised by the protest’s turnout.

“We expected almost 100 people to show up, but I think we definitely had more than 100 people show up,” Raiqa said.

To start the protest, MSA hosted guest speakers and held prayers. The speeches were emotional, with both speakers and attendees tearing up while discussing the pain of seeing videos of families mourning the deaths of loved ones from the violence.

Unib Awan, a senior philosophy major, was one of the speakers during the protest. Discussing his role as a speaker and participant, Awan said he has always had a close relationship with the Palestinian community.

“I have many friends that are Palestinians, I have people I consider family [who] are Palestinian and they are my brothers and sisters,” Awan said. “When I see that they are going through horrific war crimes, I have to do my part to raise awareness.”

With the guidance of police officers and Stony Brook officials, protestors marched their way from the Union up the Zebra Path and through the Academic Mall. The march lasted around 20 minutes, with an individual giving out chants in the front of the protest through a megaphone and having protestors repeat them back.

These chants demanded that Palestine be free as they called out Israel, Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis and U.S. President Joe Biden regarding their responses to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Protestors additionally cried out “Occupation is a crime,” and accused Israel and President Biden of committing genocide.

The protest concluded with a prayer, then MSA thanked attendees for showing their support for Palestine.

Awan was very pleased with the number of people who showed up to provide their support. He credits the university and faculty members for the fluidity of the protest.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at the turnout and of the unity, and props have to be given to the university itself who cleared this protest and coordinated with us [the participants],” Awan said. “A lot of professors were very supportive and told me they [would] be attending. I am very happy with what I saw today.”

Despite being so far from Palestine, the protests on a university campus thousands of miles away from the heart of the conflict meant a lot to attendees such as Nazir, a senior chemistry major who did not want to give his last name.

“There is a collective community that will still stand thousands of miles away in spite of some of us having no connection to Palestine,” Nazir said. “That alone is enough for us to stand for what is right and stand for those who are suffering.”

As fighting continues to escalate, Israel prepares to invade Gaza in its biggest ground invasion since 2006 in an effort to capture Gaza City. Israel plans to destroy Hamas, putting the densely populated Gaza at risk of increased bloodshed and endangering a high amount of civilian casualties.

Darwin, a sophomore marine vertebrate biology major who declined to give his last name, was a participant in the protest who had no particular affiliation with either side. Darwin saw this protest as an opportunity for him to participate in trying to stop the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invasion of Gaza.

“Even though I don’t have any connections with what’s going on here since I’m not Jewish or Muslim, I am to be very familiar with that of counterinsurgencies of the colonial powers,” Darwin said. “To see now what has happened since the Hamas offensive and the impending invasion of the Gaza Strip by the IDF, I just feel that it [is] about time that instead of studying the subject I can actually finally participate in trying to stop it.”

Faculty and high-ranking Stony Brook officials, such as Stony Brook’s Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau, showed their support for the Stony Brook community by standing with the students as they voiced their concerns throughout the protest.

Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Ric McClendon attended the protest but declined to answer specific questions, stating that he was “just there to support the students.”

Syed Morshed, a brother’s representative at MSA and a junior psychology major, said that MSA’s protest aimed to raise awareness and have the University acknowledge Israeli crimes.

“MSA’s main message is to acknowledge the crimes committed by Israel,” Morshed said. “We want our President and Stony Brook as a university to acknowledge these crimes and acknowledge the children dying, the innocent families getting murdered in Israel and Palestine and to fight for the overall resistance of occupied land by Israel.”

As of Oct. 17, over 700 children have been killed according to Gaza’s Hamas authorities, with roughly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people being under the age of 18. On the other hand, United States and Israeli families are missing loved ones, with Hamas holding them captive after seizing almost 200 hostages in their early October offense.

“There’s no political stance in this, this is just a genocide that’s happening. If you don’t stand with Palestine you stand with genocide,” Morshed said.

Sky Crabtree contributed reporting.

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